If you were hoping for a gritty, bloody, violent remake of 1982’s haunted house story Poltergeist, you are in for some disappointment, as the MPAA has just given the film a PG-13 rating. This cannot be much of a surprise, as the original was the subject of a ratings controversy when it was originally slapped with an R. Producer Steven Spielberg managed to argue it down to a PG, but I think we can all agree that the film is a bit scarier than that.
The new Poltergeist appears to be following in its predecessor’s wake without quite being a straight remake. Jared Harris plays the host of a TV cable show called “Haunted House Cleaners,” bringing him into contact with a family living in a haunted house (played in part by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt).
The film, directed by Gil Keenan and produced by Sam Raimi, is supposed to be both a sequel and a reboot, so it will be interesting to see how it develops or plays with the format of the original, especially in the current climate of sister films like Paranormal Activity and its sequels.
The original Poltergeist actually wound up being one of several films to inspire the “medium” rating of PG-13: too violent/scary/sexual for a PG, but not quite bad enough for an R. Although it received a PG rating upon release, it is quite obviously not appropriate for very small children. When Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins appeared a few years later, the ratings administration decided to add PG-13 to cope with such movies that were maybe not appropriate for younger children.
The new Poltergeist will not start haunting us until July 24, 2015, when it premieres in 3D. Until then, I suggest renting the original film. Whatever the rating, it is a true classic.